Around 100,000 people have been trained at the NATO Communications and Information Systems School (NCISS) in Latina, Italy.
In an official ceremony in June, this remarkable institution celebrated 60 years of successful training, and passed the torch to the new NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Academy, which will open this autumn.
"Over the past 60 years, this school has done its job. It trained generations of experts and technicians to help keep the peace, win the Cold War, find and track down terrorists, and keep our networks stable, free of malware and running in the face of constant cyber-attacks," said Kevin J Scheid, General Manager of the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency.
The NCISS has become an integral component of the NCI Agency, as part of its Education and Training Service Line. The Agency is responsible for acquiring and supporting NATO systems, and providing training to operate them.
“We are here to support NATO and those 60 years have truly been 60 years of service to NATO,” said Commandant Paulo Nunes, who is responsible for the school’s day-to-day running.
Since the beginning, the school has put its customers first. Its clients come primarily from NATO’s command structure – around 85 percent of its students are military personnel.
About half of the students are involved in NATO’s operations and theatre support. And 20 percent of its students will be or are already assigned to a NATO operation or a NATO mission.
“This is a huge responsibility for the school,” said Commandant Nunes. “If we fail our mission, NATO will be impaired in providing security and accomplishing its missions. We feel that we are very much linked to NATO’s operational side.”
The history of the Latina school’s courses reflects also the history of technology, from radio communications in the school’s early days, to applications and cloud computing today. Throughout the years, the school has changed and adapted to NATO’s needs.
Important technological discoveries in the 1990s changed the way NATO personnel communicated. People placed more and more emphasis on online communications, so the demand for training in software engineering and programming increased dramatically.
“The school was built in 1959, originally as a tropospheric scatter training entity,” said LTC Oliver Geermann, the school’s Chief of Staff. “I’m very proud that the school is always on top of technology.
Every year, the NCI Agency acquires 500 million EUR in new equipment that demands extensive training.
But some students who attend the school arrive without prior experience with NATO systems, Geermann said.
“When those students arrive at NATO positions, they must learn what they have to provide on the field,” Geermann said. “First they are trained as users, then as administrators and finally as coordinators to bring knowledge to the field.”
The NATO Communication and Information Systems Group (NCISG) has been the biggest customer of the school in Latina, with around 1,200 of its personnel trained there every year.
“The training provided by NCISS is very important, and its mission is critical for us,” said Korozana Celaj, Training Management Branch Head at NCISG. “Our close cooperation made it possible for our personnel to receive all the necessary qualifications in all aspects of communications and information systems and prepared them for future deployments.”
At the official ceremony in Latina on 3 June 2019, the Agency celebrated everything the school has achieved in the past 60 years. The ceremony celebrated the school’s instructors and support staff, who have always brought their ambitious ideas to the international community.
“Our instructors at the school are not just delivering training,” Commandant Nunes said. “They are in fact building networks of expertise and knowledge, and our students will for sure be directly or indirectly involved in those networks and communities.”
This autumn, the school’s activities will be relocated to Oeiras, Portugal, to become part of the new NCI Academy. At the new facilities, the school’s personnel will continue to deliver high-quality training to personnel from NATO and its Nations.
As the Alliance faces new challenges and threats, the NCI Academy will expand the number of courses offered and tackle new subjects to help NATO maintain its technological edge. NATO’s workforce is changing too, necessitating new approaches to training.
Currently, the school in Latina has 21 complete training systems supporting various capabilities, and around 4,000 students are trained there every year. In the coming years, this number is expected to rise to more than 10,000 students a year at the new NCI Academy.
More than 14,000 assets are being transported from Latina to Oeiras to get the new NCI Academy started. The new Academy will offer individual, team and collective training.
“Over the next five to ten years, it is anticipated that 75 percent of NATO’s workforce may be millennials,” said Jean-Paul Massart, Chief of the Education and Training Service Line at the NCI Agency. “A part of this transformation is to adjust to these changing demographics.”
The Agency’s General Manager, and MGEN Göksel Sevindik, the Agency´s Chief of Staff, both spoke at the June ceremony. During their keynote speeches, they highlighted the school’s achievements and upcoming transformation.
"We will soon retire the flag of the NATO CIS School, but we are not extinguishing the flame of education and training that has burned here for 60 years – nearly the entire existence of the NATO Alliance. That flame will continue to burn at the NCI Academy, in the hearts of its leaders, instructors, and administrators who will keep the Academy functioning; and in the minds of the students who will carry those lessons across the Alliance," Scheid said.
Visit the NCI Agency’s Flickr page to see a photo album from the ceremony here.